Tim Bondy Learns How to Facet a Gem from Mountain Home's Stoecker Jewelers
Way back in June 2010 I met two gentlemen while ankle deep in mud standing over a National Forest Service run star garnet sluice box near Clarkia, Idaho. These 2 guys took pity on me and my wife by giving us some hints on how to recognize gems as water filtered over a big glop of pure Idaho mud and muck we just dumped into the sluice box. It wasn't long before I found my 1st honest to goodness Idaho star garnet.
These two gentlemen standing next to us turned out to be none other than Kelly Willis and Michael Stoecker from Stoecker Jewelers in Mountain Home, Idaho. Since that time, I have visited Stoecker probably 10 times trying to pry rock hounding information out these two guys.
Then a week ago, Michael invited me to come into his shop and learn the fine art of gem faceting. I suspect this was his way of diverting my attention from trying to get some “rock hounding intel” into something more productive, like learning what to do with the rocks I have already collected. And so my new adventure begins.
The work bench of the mad creative genius's at Stoecker Jewelers
Stoecker's Workshop and Faceting Equipment
Kelly took me back into the business end of the store...”The Work Shop”. I've visited enough jewelry stores in my life to know this type of workshop isn't the norm. First of all, these jewelers were wearing jeans, no tie or suit coat and they smile...all the time. No stuffiness in this store, that's for sure.
Kelly began the lesson by introducing me to “his baby” called the Selectra-Matic Faceting Machine made by Prismatic Industries. I'm told this classic old machine is one of the most accurate and easy to use faceting machine ever made. No laser stuff, no high tech dials and so easy even a web designer can safely use it.
Notice the wax on the stone and dop stick
Selecting “the gem” and Getting Ready to Facet
Kelly introduced me to the “rough gem” I would be faceting. This rough gem is more commonly called a hunk of old television screen glass about the size of a US Quarter. Kelly told me it is best to learn faceting on something a little less valuable than one of my prized star garnets.
Caption in picture above should read "Dop" and not Dob
With my hunk of TV glass in hand, Kelly proceeded to attach this hunk of glass to a “dop stick”. He did this by melting drops of a special type of wax onto the dop stick and pressing it onto “the hunk of glass”. Once the wax cooled, the glass was firmly attached to dop stick.
With dop stick and rough gem in hand, Kelly showed me how the dop stick is attached to the Selectra-Matic Faceting Machine. In reality, this machine is a highly modified drill press with a rotating sanding wheel attached to it.
Let the Gem Faceting Begin
To begin, I had to choose the type of facet I would be cutting and then configure the machine. The faceting machine is actually quite complex with many different settings and angles that need to be set up. As Kelly did all the calculations and settings he explained each step. I shook my head that I understood everything we was saying and doing. In reality, I was totally lost.
Kelly gently set the hunk of glass on the rotating sand wheel and showed me how to cut my first facet. From that point on, the faceting operation was all mine. Of course I had to ask a few (hundred) questions from time to time but eventually I saw my gem starting to take shape.
Needless to say, faceting will never be a spectator sport. But once I started seeing that rough piece of glass magically transforming into a classic gem shape, it got and held my attention. It was almost like a spotlight snapped on in my head and I sort of understood what I was actually doing.
Faceting Gems is not a Fast Process
My first lesson in gem faceting ended after about 4 hours of work. I actually roughed in the “Pavilion” and “Girdle” portions of the stone during that time. Even with my untrained eye I could tell this gem like stone was going to be very unique. Maybe I'll call it the Leaning Tower of Mountain Home when it's finished.
I figured it was time to call it a day when a group of customers came in the store. Can't stand in the way of businessmen while customers are waiting. I'll head back to Stoecker Jewelers next week to finish my first faceting job.
This extensive 1st lesson in faceting was a great learning experience. What is it that I learned?
- Faceting takes the patience of Mother Teresa. It's an exacting art and a very slow process.
- Never learn faceting on a good stone.
- Michael Stoecker and Kelly Willis have a passion for this rare “trade” that I suspect is unmatched in the entire jewelry business.
- They seem to derive more satisfaction from repairing jewelry than selling an expensive new ring or bracelet. But I'm sure they can spare a few minutes if you want to buy the “Hope Diamond”.
- These guys can keep a secret better than anyone I know. Someday I'll get those directions to where I can dig up some rare Idaho aquamarine crystals...I hope.
- The proper pronunciation of “Stoecker” is actually like saying the word “Stucker”.
I want to thank Michael for opening up his workshop to me and giving me a glimpse into the stone cutting process. It was eye opening and something I will think about every time I go rock hounding.
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